Lioness, a smart vibrator, can measure a woman’s vaginal contractions (with sensor in the that measures tension in the vagina) and display her orgasms on a chart. The company recently released an informal study of users’ “potgasms." Many of the participants experienced different orgasms on weed—and sometimes, the measurements reflected these reports.
“My orgasm felt longer-lasting and surprised me more with its varying intensities,” says Lioness’s CEO Liz Klinger of masturbation after consuming an edible. “It’s normally more of a consistent, rolling wave. My vaginal contractions were way less regular, and instead of my squeezing getting weaker and weaker over time, it just kept going strong throughout."
If you look at Klinger’s chart, you can see that her orgasm under the edible’s influence (far right) has larger and less regular contractions than the sober climax (left), and they don’t taper off at the end.
Maggie, a 25-year-old software developer in Oakland, California, who prefers not to use her last name (so this article won’t be the first thing that shows up when you google her) also experienced more intense orgasms while stoned, which corresponded with more forceful vaginal contractions measured by Lioness.
"Usually, getting high makes my body and mind much more reactive to stimuli,” Maggie explains. “A soft blanket feels softer, food tastes better, my favorite comedies are funnier, etc. So, at least to me, it wasn’t a surprise to see that my pelvic floor was also much more reactive."
Liz and Maggie both say their weed-enhanced orgasms are more intense, and this perception is common. In a not-yet-published study, Becky Kaufman Lynn, director of the Center for Sexual Health and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Saint Louis University, found that 53 percent of women report better orgasms when they’re stoned. Those who smoked before sex habitually were more than twice as likely to say they experienced satisfying orgasms during sexual activity.
It’s not well-understood why this is, but one possibility is that cannabinoids are involved in the neurological process of orgasm. “There is some recent research showing orgasm to release endogenous cannabinoids—naturally occurring in the human body regardless of cannabis use,” says Matthew Johnson, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University. One study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men and women had higher levels of the endocannabinoid 2-AG in their blood after masturbating.
Many people also report longer-lasting orgasms while stoned. However, this probably isn't because the orgasm was actually longer. It’s more likely because weed makes everything seem to happen in slow motion. “Cannabis makes time slow for any event, not just sex,” says Mitch Earleywine, professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany and author of Understanding Marijuana. “A TV commercial can seem long, too, alas.” Accordingly, both Maggie and Liz have at times believed their potgasms were longer than typical orgasms only to look at the Lioness app and realize they were their usual length.
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Another appeal of stoned sex for many is increased arousal. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that Americans who had used marijuana over the past year had 20 percent more sex. Though it’s not clear from this study that the weed was causing the urge to bone, Lynn’s own research subjects tended to report increased desire from weed.
THC affects areas in the brain’s thalamus involved in arousal and desire, as well as blood vessels that control arousal, says Jordan Tishler, president of InhaleMD and the Association of Cannabis Specialists. It also affects the hypothalamic pituitary axis, which controls testosterone (which, in turn, affects your sex drive), Lynn tells me.
Some of weed’s effects on people’s sex lives are less direct. For example, many say stoned sex is different because the drug makes them more present. “When I’m high, I am much more ‘in the moment’ than when I’m sober, which in turn makes me a lot more sensitive and reactive to stimuli,” says Anna Lee, Lioness’s VP of Engineering. “Normally, when I’m sober, I like to change the vibrations around throughout my session, but when I’m high, I keep it only at the lowest setting.”
Men have felt the differences as well. "Being stoned while masturbating or having sex is one of the most freeing sensations the human body can feel,” says Victor Escobar, 27, an artist in Brooklyn. “I get more aroused after smoking weed, and having an orgasm while being stoned is more of a memorable experience. It’s like having sex with or without a condom: One just feels better."
This feeling of being in the moment could stem from THC’s inhibition of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, which are involved in memory, especially emotional memory, Tishler says. (Most of weed’s sexual effects come from THC, he explains, and accordingly, one Lioness user’s CBD orgasm looked indistinguishable from her sober orgasms.) This effect, combined with weed’s anti-anxiety effects in the amygdala, can even help survivors of sexual trauma feel more comfortable during sex, Tishler adds. For others, weed-induced relaxation can reduce performance anxiety.
Weed’s relaxing effects help many people take the scenic route to orgasm. "When I masturbate without weed in my system, the method is usually surgical: Get in, get out, and get the patient off the table as quickly as possible,” says Daniel Saynt, a 35-year-old entrepreneur in Brooklyn. “I usually search specific scenes to get off quickly. But on weed, the experience is a little more relaxed.” Saynt says smoking before sex makes him more open to trying—or at least imagining—new things. “I'm more likely to click the ‘I Feel Lucky’ dice on PornMD. I'll discover new videos I haven't considered searching for. I'm more likely spend more time masturbating, paying attention to my strokes, trying some new hand positions, or incorporating some toys to build up my orgasm. It becomes more about discovery.”
But it’s not all rainbows and toe-curling climaxes for everyone. Cannabis can cause drying of the mucous membranes, which might mean a lack of vaginal wetness, Earleywine says, though Lynn’s research subjects reported no effect on lubrication. Men who consume too much weed might also suffer from a case of “Stoner Boner”—a waning erection, Tishler says. And another study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men who smoked daily were more likely to experience inability to orgasm, reach orgasm too quickly, and reach orgasm too slowly compared to those who never smoked. So, as with everything, moderation is key.
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